By Ms. Fonda R Bock (USAREC)May 17, 2013
FORT KNOX, Ky. -- "I wish I would have known this information 10 years ago," Staff Sgt. Joshua Ferencz said of the 10-day Master Resilience Trainer (MRT) course he attended at Fort Knox in March. "Honestly, this is one of the best military schools I've been in. You realize who you are on the inside, and then they show you how you can change and be more resilient."
During the two-week course, the South Carolina recruiter learned effective communication skills, how to control his emotions, how to identify daily occurrences that trigger emotions and rage, how to deal with those situations in a positive manner and how to view situations with optimism, regardless of the circumstances in both his personal and work life.
"Personally, I wish I would have known this before my three deployments because I know my home life would have been a lot less rocky, so to speak. You get in this one mind set or you're raised this one way as a Soldier and you think that's the norm. And when you step back after you learn these lessons you realize there's an alternative way to think, get somewhere and do something."
The 28-year-old has been in recruiting for just a year. Previously, he served in the infantry doing yearlong deployments in Iraq in 2005 and 2007 and Afghanistan in 2010. The stress and trauma from war stayed with him when he returned home.
"Through all my deployments it was pretty much a year on and a year off for my wife and myself for six years. As soon as things would start to get right, I was deployed again, so it was back to square one after a year.
"Even though we're Soldiers and we're trained to be disciplined, emotions aren't just something you can just turn off and on like a light switch. This course teaches you really how to get inside your own thoughts, your own emotions and express them without hurting somebody else or them hurting you."
Conducted by the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) Mobile Training Team, the MRT course was sponsored by Recruiting Command to train and certify 70 recruiters and civilians within the command to support and execute resilience training for USAREC Soldiers, Families, staff and Future Soldiers.
Resilience is the ability to grow and thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity. Resilient Soldiers are self-aware, self-regulated and adaptive leaders who possess mental toughness, perform at optimal levels, exhibit enhanced leadership and communication skills, and present goal-achieving attitudes.
These characteristics and being mentally, emotionally and physically strong are what every great organization desires from its Soldiers, leaders and staff, said Phil Tabor, Recruiting Command's G-3 Training Division chief.
"We are a high priority organization for implementing resiliency programs. Just like the rest of the Army, we're bringing in people from different cultures and nationalities and expecting everybody to think and react the same way and they don't. And we've found that the resilience of today's youth may not be as high as it was in the past.
"We deal with people from all walks of life, people telling us no, people totally against military service, and how do we relate to that when we've grown up in an organization that is proud of what we do. We take those feelings home with us, combine it with our combat experiences, and the stress of learning a new job, and it trickles down into our relationships. So resiliency provides us with the tools to be able to live and relate in life a lot more appropriately," said Tabor.
Coming from his hometown right outside of Pittsburgh to a recruiting center in Florence, S.C., was a culture shock for Ferencz. And coming from the disciplined male environment of the infantry where Soldiers are more apt to just execute the mission without asking questions, Ferencz wasn't mentally equipped to work with civilian prospects.
"When it comes to enlisting, knowing what I know now, I think I can now better communicate with applicants/prospects.
"Get to their level because we're not all the same, maybe they need something explained to them a different way. I was so used to dealing with, 'Hey private, do this,' because you're my subordinate and I'm your superior and you have to do it. It's not like that working with civilians and it took me time to realize that -- that they are just kids not in the Army yet and that we really have to focus on them as an individual, not as a Soldier."
Working in recruiting is also the first time Ferencz said he'd ever worked with women in his entire career.
"I'm realizing that this guy is really good at this and she is really good at that, and that we can all come together as a team and be more efficient and productive in our day-to-day operations, I think this is going to be beneficial for all of us at this center."
During the course participants learned:
• Real-time resilience: How to shut down counterproductive thinking to enable greater concentration and focus on the task at hand.
• How to identify character strengths in oneself and others to build the best in yourself and others.
• How to use character strengths in challenges and leadership: How to identify character strengths in yourself and others to improve teamwork and overcome challenges.
• Assertive communication: How to communicate clearly and with respect, especially during a conflict or challenge. How to use the IDEAL model to communicate in a confident, clear and controlled manner. I=Identify and understand the problem, D=Describe the problem objectively, E=Express your concerns, A=Ask the other person for his or her perspective and ask for a reasonable change, L=List the positive outcomes that will occur if the person makes the agreed upon change.
• Active constructive responding and effective praise: How to respond to others with authentic, active and constructive interest to build strong relationships and how to use praise to build mastery and winning streaks.
• Hunt the good stuff: How to hunt the good stuff to counter the negativity bias to create a positive emotion and how to notice and analyze what is good.
• How to identify your thoughts about an activating event and the consequences of those thoughts.
• Avoiding thinking traps: How to identify and correct counterproductive patterns in thinking through the use of critical questions.
• Detect icebergs: How to identify core beliefs and core values that fuel out-of-proportion emotions and how to evaluate the accuracy and usefulness of those beliefs. How to identify core beliefs and values that promote rejuvenation.
• Problem solving: How to accurately identify what caused the problem and solution strategies.
• Put it in perspective: How to stop catastrophic thinking, reduce anxiety and improve problem solving by identifying the worst, best and most likely outcomes of a situation.
• Mental games: How to change the focus away from counterproductive thinking to enable greater concentration and focus on the task at hand.
During this era of heavy budget cuts for the Pentagon, this training was deemed essential by USAREC Commanding General Maj. Gen. David Mann, said Command Psychologist Lt. Col. Ingrid Lim.
"Since our recruiters are not all on one post where there is consolidated support, it's imperative we get MRT trainers out into the field. They become sort of our embedded support for our Soldiers out in the command and help recruiters build resistance, reduce behavioral health issues or acting out behaviors, and help them cope with whatever stressors they're facing," Lim said.
All participants received a certificate of completion and a skill identifier of 8R, which identifies them as a master resilience trainer for the Army.
USAREC now has approximately 400 MRT trainers; the goal is to have 819 by fiscal year 2015.
Lim encourages commanders to find out who their MRT trainers are.
"I think sometimes we have unused assets. So commanders, seek out your MRTs, observe them in their training, select the best you have and send them to the advanced master trainer course. Then we can train our own assistant trainers within our footprints."
Tabor emphasized that master resilience trainers are not counselors or psychologists; they are not financial or marital advisers, but experts on training resiliency skills.